Studio Love

We hear it said often—the dancers you meet as fellow students in your (fill in the blank: studio, summer study intensive, college dance program) will become your lifelong friends and colleagues. But the other night at the Dance Magazine Awards, it occurred to me how when we’re young, we can’t possibly know just how much potential our studio friendships hold.

You never know, for instance, when you may be called on to present an award to your oldest friend. Mikhail Baryshnikov and Karen Kain reminisced onstage about the early days after his defection, when he took class in Toronto alongside the dancers of National Ballet of Canada—including Kain, who was a principal dancer at the time. (Misha lamented that he was too short to partner her.)

We all know that magic happens in the studio. But what happens when your mother is the dance teacher? In “When Dancers Follow in Their Mothers’ Footsteps,” we talked with four educators about how their mothers influenced their career choices. And in our cover feature, “An Indian Dance Matriarchy in Minneapolis,” mother and daughter Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy of Ragamala Dance Company, tell us what it was like to study together—not as teacher and student, but as equal colleagues.

And just as the chance to form meaningful studio relationships continues throughout a dancer’s career, so do the learning opportunities. This summer might be a good time for you to renew old bonds while also updating your teaching credentials. Check out our list of teacher training workshops for summer 2016.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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